Born in 1947, MacNelly the son of a retired journalist and a newspaper publisher. Described as the class clown he was destined to be a cartoonist and started his career as a sports journalist and illustrator for satirical newspaper The Daily Tar Heel before creating Shoe, who was based on MacNelly's university professor and mentor, Jim 'Shu' Shumaker.As well as his three Pulitzers and two Reuben Awards, he also won a George Polk Award and was the first cartoonist inducted into the UNC School of Journalism Hall of Fame. He said at the time of his induction: "I'm afraid if my mother finds out, I'll be in big trouble. She thinks I'm running numbers in Baltimore. MacNelly won "Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year" from the National Cartoonists Society in 1978 and 1979.